Friday, November 02, 2007

Here In My Car, I Feel Safest Of All

On the two thoroughfares at the termini of our street here in Highgate, traffic grinds to a very slow crawl inbound at rush hour in the morning. Should motorists continue about four miles farther down the road into Central London, they will be assessed £8 (roughly $16) simply for crossing into London's congestion-charging zone. That's in addition to any parking fee you might pay. Yet, buses run down these same roads, and trains rumble underneath--and if you live in the far distant sticks--let's say, Manea, in Cambridgeshire, you can still catch a train to one of 14 terminus stations in London. Except when there is a major fault, the buses and trains run frequently, more frequently than any other mass transit system I've ever used.

So why do people drive? And I ask this because of this article in Wednesday's Guardian in which I learned that the share of Britons who travel by car rose from 27% in 1959 to 87% in 1996, while the share using buses and coaches shrank from 42% to 6%, the share using rail shrank from 18% to 5%, and the share using the world's greatest personal transportation system, the bicycle, shank from 11% to just 1%. The article was accompanied by two photos of Britain's first freeway, the M1: One from 1959, when it first opened, nearly empty, and a second one today, with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

During our visit to New Jersey, we learned that Mrs. Werbenmanjensen's sister lives just three miles from her work (kudos to her for choosing to live close to where she works, although her husband works a much longer distance from their home). She drives because, well, it's New Jersey and it's not like they can be bothered with serving any commuter other than the single person in a single car. It turns out that a colleague of Sister Werbenmanjensen lives in the next development over, and when it was brought up that they could carpool, Sister Werbenmanjensen said, "No, because I want to go when I want to go."

In a free society, of course, we're all free to do as we wish, but if all people "go when they want to go," you have a lot of people simply stopped in traffic. If you have an alternative, though, why would you settle for that?

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1 Comments:

Blogger Middle Kid said...

Good mass transportation is something that's lacking here in the Southwestern United States. It must be that renegade spirit that we're so proud of. You know, the thing that makes John McCain so special.

3:40 PM  

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